Send to

Choose Destination
Psychiatry Res. 2018 Feb;260:346-352. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.12.003. Epub 2017 Dec 6.

Effects of oxytocin on cortisol reactivity and conflict resolution behaviors among couples with substance misuse.

Author information

Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA. Electronic address:
Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA.
Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA; Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Charleston, SC, USA.


Social stress, particularly in the form of dyadic conflict, is a well-established correlate of substance use disorders (SUD). The neuropeptide oxytocin can enhance prosocial behavior and mitigate addictive behaviors. These effects may be, in part, a result of oxytocin's ability to attenuate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation. However, only one study to date has examined the effects of oxytocin on neuroendocrine reactivity or conflict resolution behavior among couples. Participants (N = 33 couples or 66 total participants) were heterosexual couples in which one or both partners endorsed substance misuse. Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures design and an evidence-based behavioral coding system, we compared the impact of oxytocin (40 IU) vs. placebo on cortisol reactivity and conflict resolution behaviors. Among women, oxytocin attenuated cortisol response following the task. Oxytocin was also associated with increased Distress Maintaining Attributions and decreased Relationship Enhancing Attributions. Among men, oxytocin was associated with decreased Distress Maintaining Attributions, and both oxytocin and placebo yielded declines in Relationship Enhancing Attributions. The findings support emerging hypotheses that oxytocin may have differential effects in men and women, and indicate the need for future efforts to translate oxytocin's positive neurobiological effects into therapeutic behavioral changes.


Cortisol; Couples; Gender; Oxytocin; Sex; Substance use

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center